EDITOR'S NOTE: On October 8, 2004, Ministries Today publisher Stephen Strang and the former pastor of Westminister Chapel in London, R.T. Kendall, visited Oral Roberts in his home in Newport Beach, California.
Although Roberts and Kendall never met before, Roberts was deeply influenced in recent years by Kendall's bestseller Total Forgiveness and wrote the forward to a recent printing of the book.
Now 86 years old, Roberts is one of the most respected leaders in the charismatic community. Known for his emphasis on divine healing and faith, Roberts launched a TV program in 1955 that lifted the activity of the supernatural out of the Pentecostal subculture and brought it into the homes of millions of Americans.
In 1965, he opened Oral Roberts University, a liberal arts college in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that has become one of the premier centers of higher education in the charismatic community. By 1980, a Gallup Poll revealed that his name was recognized by 84 percent of the American public. Although retired from full-time ministry, Roberts continues to serve as a spiritual father to many in the charismatic/Pentecostal movement, reads voraciously and is a keen observer of church trends.
What began as an informal chat between two leaders turned to a discussion of a recent vision Roberts had in which God impressed on him the importance of preaching and teaching the second coming. We invite you to pull up a chair and join the conversation.
R.T. Kendall: I have to pinch myself to believe that I'm sitting here talking with you! I've nothing I wanted to say except to thank you and to say how privileged I am to be sitting here next to you today.
Oral Roberts: I've discovered through the years that there are stages that we grow in, and if you don't take advantage of that moment, you may never get that particular feeling or guidance again. I felt that your book enabled me to do some forgiving. I haven't had a lot of persecution. But I've had all I want, and I didn't want any more as a human.
Your book unearthed some things in me that I needed to forgive. In my early ministry, I might not have been a pioneer, but I felt like one. There were so many times that I was alone--or at least I felt that way. And when forces began to come against me from the church, media and other sources, I really didn't know how to handle it.
There wasn't anybody that I knew of that I could talk with. So I just naturally made more and more mistakes. You know you're going to make some no matter how perfectly you're believing in the Lord. But your book meant something to me.
Kendall: So often when people get older they get defensive and can't admit to their faults. They have to justify everything that they've ever done. For you to write like you did and to say that even you could see an area in which you needed to forgive--that sets the pace for a lot of people out there who say, "Well, if he can do it, I can do it." I think that God will honor that.
You know, I've always believed that the greater the suffering, the greater the anointing. I can only think that, for you to do what you did and say what you said, would mean that God isn't finished with you yet. It could be that your greatest work is yet to be done. It wouldn't surprise me if in your sunset years and days that God will exceed anything He's ever done in your life.
Roberts: Well, He's certainly done something in me since July and the vision that He's given me of His house in the last days.
Kendall: My own eschatology gives me hope for what we call "last days ministries." I believe that, before the end, the church will be revived and that there will be sovereign vessels who will stand with unusual power where no one has stood since the days of the early church.
Let me ask you this: Do you think it's possible that the church will have a touch of the Spirit that it hasn't had for centuries while simultaneously things are getting worse with regard to world events? What if it turns out that we are going through the tribulation after all, and we are waiting for millions to be left behind only to find out that we are still here?
Sometimes I worry that the popular theology about being left behind makes people think: "Don't worry. We're not going to be here. We're not going to go through any tribulation." And I fear that this will encourage the same passive lackadaisical spirit that you have described that's in the church. Could that vision in any way have been saying that?
Roberts: God specifically told me to read Acts 2 and Matthew 24--scriptures which I knew, but also didn't know. Through these scriptures, He pointed out to me what the remnant can do.
Kendall: Here below or after the second coming?
Roberts: Before the second coming the remnant will become very strong, and they will preach, teach and heal. They will build a super-structure that is able to encompass the whole world. I don't believe anybody would say that the church now is this remnant, but the remnant is within the church.
Then God talked to me about the Jews and the covenant that He made with Abraham. God has not forgotten His people. He said something to me that is the most exciting thing that I may have heard in years.
In my ministry, I've not had a great passion to try to win Jews to Christ. I've not had great faith in most of the Jews that have said that they have accepted Christ. That doesn't mean that they aren't believing Jews, it just means that Oral Roberts was sort of a cynic.
But in this vision, the Lord spoke to me about His chosen people and gave me a picture of the inside of the city of Jerusalem. He said, "I'm going to pour out my Spirit on the Jews."
Kendall: Before the second coming?
Roberts: Yes, Sir.
Kendall: This is wonderful! This is exactly what I've been preaching.
Roberts: He showed me inside the old city and said: "I'm beginning to remove the blindness from the eyes of the Jews. And they are going to say to one another, 'We've missed the first sign, but we're not going to miss the second.'" It's going to be a wake-up call for the rest of the world.
Kendall: That's the most encouraging thing I've heard in this room.
Roberts: The things that He said to me were in two parts. He said My preachers and My teachers and the people who are working for Me must understand the most dominant thing in this moment in history is that they preach and they teach the second coming.
Kendall: That's wonderful.
Roberts: He said that there has got to be a total shift. The whole idea of going to church to feel better is wonderful, but God said, "This is not what My kingdom is all about." Most of the first apostles lost their lives, but we have reached a place where suffering is almost forgotten--except for a few people. That the kingdom is taken by violence--that there's violence when His kingdom clashes with the kingdoms of this world.
He said that, before the second coming, it is going to be like it was in the days of Noah. Those who were lost didn't go under without His love warning to them. "I'm not going to let this world fail to become aware of the second coming," He told me. "I cannot afford for them to be unaware--because they will accuse Me of not loving them."
Kendall: And what was the second thing He showed you?
That was the second thing--the love. He said that the purpose of taking the message of the second coming to every creature is to reveal how loving He is. He's not willing that any should perish. However, if Jesus returned right now, the remnant would be so small compared to the population of the earth that it would look as though God is a bad God--when, in fact, He is a God of total love.
I was reminded of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. God said: "Remember when you and your wife sat there in the theater and watched? Remember how the tears burst in your eyes and your body shook?"
He said, "I did it because I love people, and I'm not willing that any should perish, but My people--My own people in the remnant--are so removed from the reality of man's condition."
Kendall: Did you have any kind of vision of hell? What happens to those who do perish?
Roberts: Well, there's nothing that He said except the world would perish. My understanding is that people will be lost.
Kendall: It's a day in which the doctrine of hell has been swept under the carpet. I couldn't help but wonder whether that was implicit in all that you were feeling, what you saw.
Roberts: Well, I went into the kitchen and told my wife, Evelyn, about the vision. We hugged each other, and we cried, and we rejoiced. We did both. Then my son, Richard, came the next day, and I told him about the vision too.
Kendall: One more thing: You gave Stephen Strang, who you know very, very well a blessing at the beginning of our time. Have you got a blessing for someone that you don't know at all?
Roberts: I certainly do.
Kendall: I would love any word that you may have for me.
Roberts: There are some turns and bends in the trail now, and you're to be exceptionally careful that every step that you take that you don't take it until you feel the anointing. If you do that, the Lord will bring forth treasures from your being, and you will leave behind you a testimony that you have walked the trail of the Lord's guidance.
Now the Lord bless this to you and keep you in the trail so that you will not vary in your obedience. I'm believing with you that you will do this in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Amen.